When to ride your bike on the sidewalk

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Mr. Destructicity

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Jun 24 2014 at 12:55pm #

Found on the “I Love Charts” tumblr, a brief explanation of when and where you can ride on the sidewalk.

It’s a sideWALK, not a side-ride-your-bike. (Usually.)


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Jun 26 2014 at 11:07pm #

I can say I looked up the laws.
In residential (where there is a setback for houses / house doors) it is legal.
Commercial, not so.

Having said this, I’ll give my observations / personal rules.
If / when travel with or against traffic (against is legal on one way btw, on correct (drivers) side) is not as SAFE as riding on sidewalk at reasonable
speeds etc. (4mph ish?)
Example would be either direction on Forbes or 5th ave. through uptown
or most of Oakland.
I also always run the sidewalks on the bridges to northside / east ohio st.
Those cases are also the only place I run my 1800lm light on blink, in the
evening it helps shoo the earbud dingbats out of the way. (they see stuff
in front of them lighting up when I’m approaching from rear.

In an ideal world we all stop at every stop sign / light and cars always see
us / leave us room. Sorry, that is too rare around Pittsburgh.


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Jun 26 2014 at 11:28pm #

Commercial, not so.

It depends on township. They have a right to regulate it. But it should be specified in the law.


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Jun 27 2014 at 5:31am #

I never salmon so besides bridges i stay off if possible or reduce speed . I feel it sets a bad example Bikes Belong on the Road all drivers need visual reinforcement


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Jun 27 2014 at 7:51am #

@n3glv “If / when travel with or against traffic (against is legal on one way btw, on correct (drivers) side)”

this is not my understanding of the law. can you tell us where you found this?


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Jun 27 2014 at 10:00am #

I am not sure if it was city of pittsburgh for the sidewalk rule, think the one way
as long as you are on drivers side (wrong way up 1 way) was state law though.
Found it via google of course, wanted to know because I was often coming up
through Market Sq from Gateway T-Stop the ‘wrong way’.

I try to know what rules I’m bending or not, forewarned is forearmed etc.

Btw, Avalon on their main street (at some points is called California ave) is
VERY fussy about riding on sidewalk, so take the lane, there’s not enough space
to run right side of lane and still clear parked cars etc. Pisses cars off but hey?


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Jun 27 2014 at 10:07am #

There is no state law that lets cyclists ride the wrong way on one way streets. Cyclists are supposed to follow the laws for motorists, except where noted, and this isn’t one of the exceptions.
It is a good idea in general to avoid riding on the sidewalk, and it is illegal to ride on the sidewalk in business districts or where there are those stupid “Share the Road” signs. And you should take the lane whenever there is not enough space for motorists to pass you safely while staying in lane. It is safer to do that, as well as being permitted under state law.
There is a good book (“Bicycle Driver’s Manual”) describing all this, published by PennDOT. You can get paper copies at some DMV centers, or see the online version here.


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Jun 27 2014 at 11:49am #

WRT the graphic, I’m not so sure why it’s always super uncool to take the sidewalk when it is a lot faster or during rush hour. Sure, it’s important not to inconvenience or unnerve pedestrians by getting in their way, and if traffic is just a bit slow and it’s an extra light cycle or two, then patience is in order.

But why should I spend 10 minutes of my time sitting in a traffic jam that I could bypass in no time by taking the sidewalk, to the detriment of nobody? Bikes are great because they’re versatile, light, efficient, etc. You can take a street, a trail, a bus, walk it, carry it. They have a lot of the benefits of vehicles without most of the drawbacks, so let’s not self-impose drawbacks.

I’m not even 2 feet wide on my bike with my bag on it. I’m not clogging up our big wide roads. Let those who cause the problem suffer and be jealous.


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Jun 27 2014 at 11:52am #

The state law concerning bicycles and sidewalks reads as follows [full link]:

§ 3508. Pedalcycles on sidewalks and pedalcycle paths.
(a) Right-of-way to pedestrians.–A person riding a pedalcycle upon a sidewalk or pedalcycle path used by pedestrians shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.
(b) Business districts.–A person shall not ride a pedalcycle upon a sidewalk in a business district unless permitted by official traffic-control devices, nor when a usable pedalcycle-only lane has been provided adjacent to the sidewalk.


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Jun 27 2014 at 1:16pm #

it is illegal to ride on the sidewalk in business districts or where there are those stupid “Share the Road” signs.

The first part is right, but not the second. Towns can make it illegal to ride on some sidewalk, even outside business districts, but they do so with signs that specifically say that, not with Share The Road signs.

richierich, I agree that riding the sidewalk can be OK in the situation you describe: when traffic is blocked, and there’s little risk of alarming or hitting pedestrians (even if they turn suddenly). But that’s only as long as the situation doesn’t pose a risk from cars popping out from driveways into your path (which is a big reason sidewalk riding is usually discouraged) or turning into a driveway or at an intersection, or similar dangers, and it’s legal to ride that particular sidewalk.

But it’s rare for the stars to align like that and make it a good idea. And few sidewalk riders are that careful.

Mr. Destructicity

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Jun 27 2014 at 3:52pm #

@richierich – I expect a lot of it boils down to context. Want to ride on West Liberty in Pittsburgh during rush hour? Go for it. Want to ride on West Liberty in Dormont during rush hour? Too many pedestrians.


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Jun 27 2014 at 8:16pm #

[mostly diatribe; you can skip. Dinner is still cooking.]

As a rule, riding on the sidewalk is wrong. It’s for pedestrians. Suck it up and get in there with the cars! You too are a legal vehicle.

If the the traffic is backed up, work your way up between the curb and the cars as far as you can. Then take a breather. Don’t annoy the pedestrians by hopping the curb.

On the other hand some sidewalks are in name only. For example the outbound bit on E. Liberty leading from 31st to Herron. I have yet to see any humans on that stretch. It’s fair game.

I really wish the Smithfield Br approaches were properly sharrowed. There’s way too much pedestrian traffic on the walkways for bikers to have to deal with (and vice-versa).

As a rule sidewalks in Pittsburgh are a disaster: broken concrete, slabs sticking up, etc. They’re more dangerous than the street; at least on the street you have room to swerve around stuff. On a narrow sidewalk you have to screech to a halt. Why?


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Jun 27 2014 at 10:57pm #

Context +1
If I don’t feel safe on road (5th ave uptown etc) I’m on sidewalk being as as
courteous as I can to peds.


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Jun 28 2014 at 1:07am #

When/where to ride a bike on a sidewalk… Anytime you feel more comfortable riding on the sidewalk than any available alternative so long as the following two conditions are met: a) it’s not illegal to do so in a given location and b) pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way.

That chart is useless in my humble opinion.


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Jul 1 2014 at 2:05pm #

I am often trying to get from one place to another at midnight (or later) on a Friday or Saturday night.There is a high percentage of drivers that are drunk.

I mean really drunk. The kind of drunk where police would take the drunkard to a hospital, not the jail.

The percentage of people that are that drunk is high enough that I assume all drivers are that drunk. ALL drivers. Bus drivers, police car drivers, whatever. No discrimination necessary.

If they are in a vehicle that is moving, they are fallling down drunk.

Sometimes I might be wrong, but that won’t kill me.

I travel a lot on the sidewalk.

OTOH, I don’t go faster than a (very fast) pedestrian on the sidewalk. Maybe 6 mph. If there is any chance a car will be turning into a driveway, I stop and wait for them to pass. I don’t dart out from intersection at 6 mph.

I don’t cruise past pedestrians on the sidewalk, so I’ll get off and walk, if appropriate – I often walk my bike on Forbes between Murray and Shady. Traveling through the back streets of Oakland, I often have to walk.


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Jul 2 2014 at 1:54pm #

In pittsburgh, where some stairs are streets, is it legal to ride your bike down (or up) them?

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